There are many tools and strategies that we can use to shape or modify our child’s behavior. As you browse our website you will come across many of these, but one of the most powerful strategies is taking advantage of what is known as observational learning (also commonly known as social learning or modeling). As a concept it involves participating and exhibiting those behaviors we want our children to exhibit.
The Power of Observational Learning
- Observational Learning takes advantage of a child’s natural observational skills, their curiosity, their innate desire to please, and their basic “humanness” in their social connection.
- Possibly the most powerful strategy in modifying or shaping behavior.
- A child naturally observes and models the behaviors of those closest to them. For example a child who constantly observes politeness and kindness in their parents, and how others respond positively to it, is more likely to exhibit these behaviors. Likewise a child who constantly witnesses yelling and bullying in those closest to them are more likely to take on these behaviors when dealing with others.
- Observational Learning takes place automatically. Good or bad, children will learn from the example they witness, particularly from those closest to them. As a parent, your behavior will be the most influential example your child has, particularly while they are younger. Make it a good, strong and positive example.
Setting a positive example for our children to follow, is particularly important at an early age. It’s at this stage of a child’s development that they are most exclusively attached to our social connection (parent/child).
As children grow older, they are exposed to larger social connections and take their behavioral cues from a much wider social group. As your child grows older, particularly approaching and during adolescence, the influence of the examples you set will become less important. Understand that this is also a normal part of growing up and is related to a child’s need to establish their independence.
In practice observational learning as it applies to children, can be one of the most simple parenting strategies and at the same time one of the most difficult. While a seemingly simple process, as any parent knows, at times this would be an extremely difficult principle to follow. Our human nature dictates that we are not perfect as people and we are certainly not perfect as parents, but having an awareness of this concept will make us better parents, more often.
Remember, above all else, and with every effort, set a constant and positive example.